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Ensuring Quality Care for Every Filipino

Office of the Vice President

07 September 2017

Message at the Occupational Health Nurses Association of the Philippines, Inc. 48th National Annual Convention and 67th Foundation Anniversary

Centennial Hall, Manila Hotel, One Rizal Park, Manila, 7 September 2017

Mr. Edwin Inciong, OHNAP National President; Ms. Maria Rowena Aldion, Over-all Convention Chair; Dr. Primitivo Chua, OHNAP Adviser Emeritus; Ms. Bernadette Colosa, OHNAP Awards and Recognition Committee Chair; Ms. Teresita Bilo, OHNAP Booth and Exhibit Chair; OHNAP Board of Directors, officers, chapter presidents, my fellow workers in government, honored guests: Magandang umaga sa inyong lahat!

Una sa lahat, nais kong batiin kayo ng happy anniversary sa Occupational Health Nurses Association of the Philippines, Inc.

Noong papasok ako, tinatanong ko si Ma’am. Sabi ko napakalaki pala ng grupo ninyo. Sabi niya, “Matagal na po kami, 67 years na.” Kaya kung tao pala ang OHNAP, siguro senior citizen na kayo. May senior citizen card na po kayo ngayon. Marami na po kayong pinagdaanan na hirap, saya at tagumpay bilang organisasyon, kaya naman marami-rami na ring aral ang maaaring ibahagi ng inyong organisasyon sa mga bagong occupational health nurses sa ating bansa. Kaya sa inyo pong lahat, bago pa man ako magpatuloy, congratulations po.

Nurses play a very important and, sometimes, under-appreciated role in our society today. Alam ko po iyon kasi may kapatid din po akong nurse. In hospitals, for example, we often see and hear medical doctors more, and they get the praise for their patient’s recovery. ‘Di ba ganoon parati? Parating doctor ang pinapasalamatan, pero ang nurse, nakakalimutan. But you who support and assist them during treatment and rehabilitation, who work longer hours, are equally important in providing care.

Occupational health nurses who operate in a different environment have an even more challenging job. You are assigned in a wider range of industries—from agricultural to commercial establishments, from manufacturing to corporate clinics, and from health centers to schools.

Your job is to prevent workplace illnesses and injuries, and to do so, you will have to make sure that employees are safe in the workplace and that they should be familiar with the hazards around them.

What I find interesting is that aside from tending to these medical needs, you also need to develop health programs that comply with the latest regulations and the most updated research. Ito iyong hindi masyadong naiintindihan ng iba. Iyong mga occupational health nurses, akala ng iba, napakadali ng trabaho nila. Pero actually, marami ang inaasa sa inyo at marami ang assignments ninyo.

And we are all aware that that is not a walk in the park because the field of health care is always in a state of flux, and there are still many external risks, like new diseases or their changing nature, which constantly challenge what we know about taking care of our bodies.

Mabuti na lang po, maraming trainings ang ginagawa, hindi lang ng ating gobyerno pero ng OHNAP mismo, dahil malaking bahagi ang mga occupational nurses sa pagsigurong nabibigyan ng best quality healthcare ang ating mga kababayan.

Considered as “health managers” at the workplace, our occupational health nurses serve not only as their medical consultant but also their health advocate and educator. And by arming our nurses with the latest developments and practices in the field, they are more able to answer to their call of duty and address the needs of their patients.

In fact, according to the World Health Organization, these services provided at the workplace, which address the healthcare needs of working populations, have been identified as an important component of the public health strategy. Not only do they cater to the needs of the busy working class, but they also contribute to many government initiatives concerning the welfare of our employees in the workplace.

So iyong inyo pong tema ngayong umaga captures exactly that: we need to get to work and strengthen the capabilities of our occupational health workers. Healthcare is the main driver of our people’s empowerment. It ensures that our citizens can reach their potential and pursue opportunities because they are healthy and they are able, making each one a partner in our growth and development.

But despite all our efforts to improve public health, access to quality healthcare for all still remains a dream. The problems of hunger and malnutrition, for instance, are silent crises gripping our country, and nowhere is this more evident than in our country’s farthest and poorest municipalities.

Alam po ninyo, linggo-linggo, umiikot po kami, nagde-devote kami ng at least two or three days every week para bisitahin iyong mga malalayo at mga mahihirap na munisipalidad sa ating bansa. Kahit po hindi ito bahagi ng aming regular na functions, tingin namin, mas makakahanap kami ng paraan na makatulong kapag kami mismo ang nakakakita ng sitwasyon, at malaman namin kung ano ang puwedeng maiambag para labanan ang kahirapan ng ating bayan.

Marami pong beses na nakikita natin iyong mga tinatawag nating mga bansot. Sa mga malalayong lugar, very, very common ang bansot. Kuwentuhan ko po kayo ng kaunti.

Pumunta po kami sa Agutaya; hindi ko po alam kung narinig niyo na iyon, but Agutaya is a very small municipality in Northern Palawan. To be able to get to Agutaya, you have to take a 10-hour boat ride from Coron. Siguro iyong Coron mas kilala ninyo. Pumunta kami sa Agutaya, nagbisita kami, and we were welcomed by the people there. Pina-line up nila iyong mga estudyante, mga public elementary school children na may mga flaglets. Noong iniikot ko po ang mga bata, nag-iinterview ako ng mga Grade 1 at Grade 6. May nakita ako, Grade 5 na, pero parang Grade 1 pa rin ang laki. So tinatanong ko po iyong mga kasamahan namin, “Bakit ganoon? Bakit halos pare-pareho lang sila ng laki?” Ang sabi po sa amin ng doktor na kasama namin, iyon pala ang stunting. And the bad thing about stunting is that it is irreversible after the age of five years old. Tapos hindi lang pala height ang naaapektuhan pero pati mental faculties rin.

So nakakatakot, in the sense that it has been a prevailing observation that wherever we go, it is everywhere. When we went back to Manila after Agutaya, we learned that at least 3.5 million Filipino children are suffering from stunting.

So many of our countrymen remain at risk and vulnerable to sickness, accidents, and calamities with no immediate medical facility to address their needs. These areas do not even have basic medical equipment, adequate infrastructure, and the staff are often undermanned or lack training. Barangay health workers, karamihan sa kanila, are underpaid if not working for free—and sometimes, they are the only medical practitioners in the community.

This is the reality of public health in the country. And I hope you will be able to take the time today to consider turning your gaze to them—those who are in the fringes of our society, the poor, the marginalized, iyong mga napapag-iwanan. But I know many of you already do, and I commend you for it. There is so much that we can do together, whether we belong to the public or the private sector.

Collaboration, truly, is key. Marami pong nag-aaway-away ngayon pero nakakalimutan yata nila na hindi naman tayo ang magkakaaway. Ang kaaway natin ay kahirapan at kasamaan, hindi yung bawat isa. Kaya parati ko pong sinasabi: Magtulungan na lang tayo, huwag na tayong mag-away nang mag-away.

So we conceptualized our Angat Buhay program for the Office of the Vice President wherein we connect development organizations with the local government units, who in turn will fund the projects and programs that the community needs.

As we continue in advancing health and wellness for all, let us also try to include the poor in our plans. Alam ko po na parati na ninyo silang sinasama, pero siguro bigyan natin ng greater consideration pa sa kanila. Your work does not end within your clinics and offices, pareho rin sa amin. Hindi rin nagtatapos sa aming mga opisina [ang trabaho]. This is why we invite each one of you to go beyond your usual workspaces and help in our cause to provide healthcare for all.

We may have entered different professions, but our eyes should be set on one common goal: to uplift the lives of our people.

Pangarap ko po na magkaroon ng doktor for every Filipino family, whether in remote places or in busy cities. Alam niyo po, kapag minsan kapag bumibisita kayo, mayroong mga babae na napakalaki ang bukol sa kanyang mukha, tapos kapag tinanong mo if she has seen a doctor already, sasabihin niya, wala pa. Pero siyempre iyong bukol na iyon, years and years nandoon na. I have always hoped for health care that does not discriminate between the rich and the poor.

Access to health care is the right of every Filipino. Who knows, the next child you help could also be a nurse like you, or a teacher or a soldier who saves another person’s life one day. The next mother or father you attend to could be the parent of our generation’s next Filipino hero. Again, every Filipino deserves quality healthcare.

When you keep that in mind, it is easier to serve each one of them with a smile, a kindly touch, a gentler voice, a more empathic demeanor. I believe you are able to do it because you listen with empathy. Ito paminsan, mahirap gawin, lalo na kapag sunod-sunod ang inaasikaso nating pasyente. Napapagod rin tayo. But we all know that if we are in the frontlines, kahit gaanong pagod, kahit gusto mo nang magsungit, your kindness, your smile, your gentle touch, will always go a long way.

You become the main advocate for their healthcare by showing genuine love and compassion in doing your work. Most of all, you serve with integrity— truthful and honest with your patients because they are counting on you with their lives.

Nursing, and other medical professions, is more than just a job. Ito, naalala ko lang. May kapatid kasi akong nurse na nasa Florida. Nasa balita ngayon na may padating na bagyo doon na napakalakas, and I am quite worried of my sister, kasi kinikuwento niya na as early as three or four days ago, bumibili siya ng tubig, wala na siyang mapagbilhan kasi nagpa-panic na ang mga tao doon. Sabi ko, lumipat na siya doon sa isa naming kapatid na nasa ibang lugar. Sabi niya, “Hindi ako makakaalis kasi duty ako.” Ganiyan rin kayo, hindi ba? Kahit may kailangang asikasuhin sa sariling pamamahay, parating inuuna ang obligasyon sa labas ng bahay. It is because nursing is a service, a selfless vocation.

So we hope that as you are here for today’s convention, you take this is as an opportunity to listen to each other. Start conversations, exchange experiences and ideas with your peers, and even collaborate on projects.

Uphold best practices among yourselves, and let this convention inspire you to break new ground in your respective fields, and allow you to respond more effectively to the challenges of our time.

Finally, I am very much honored to have accepted this invitation. Aaminin ko po, I was not aware of OHNAP before I received your invite. But when I received it, bakante naman ako, so I told my staff to accept the invitation—and I am glad that I did. It gives us also a different perspective of what nursing is all about. It gives us a different perspective na nandiyan pala kayo, na madalas nakakalimutan ng ating pamahalaan.

So thank you very much for the invitation, and happy anniversary again to OHNAP. I wish you many more fruitful years ahead. Maraming salamat po, at magandang umaga muli sa lahat.